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Archive for June, 2010

A few weeks ago, I posted on a story from the Village of Port Chester, New York, where the Federal government was overseeing a new method of election for village trustees in which each resident was given six votes to cast as they saw fit.

One self-professed “progressive” commentator took me to task for criticizing it at another blog, claiming that the practice was “commonplace” and that I was making much ado out of nothing.

He was half-right.

Cumulative voting is common-place, although not required in the governance of corporations as a measure to provide minority shareholders with the means to elect at least one member of the corporation’s board of directors.  The reason that it seems counter-intuitive to many people with regard to elections for political office likely stems from the decision in Reynolds v. Sims, which ruled that in states with a bicameral legislature, the apportionment plans must allocate seats according to the population as to make the voting power of one citizen as equal as possible to that of any other citizen.  This was reduced to the maxim “One man, one vote.”

However, as it happens, pursuant to the Voting Rights Act, the federal government has been tinkering with this formula for some time now.

From the Justice Department’s Website:

The Voting Rights Act is not limited to discrimination that literally excludes minority voters from the polls. Section 2 of the Act (42 U.S.C. 1973) makes it illegal for any state or local government to use election processes that are not equally open to minority voters, or that give minority voters less opportunity than other voters to participate in the political process and elect representatives of their choice to public office. In particular, Section 2 makes it illegal for state and local governments to “dilute” the votes of racial minority groups, that is, to have an election system that makes minority voters’ votes less effective than those of other voters. One of many forms of minority vote dilution is the drawing of district lines that divide minority communities and keep them from putting enough votes together to elect representatives of their choice to public office. Depending on the circumstances, dilution can also result from at-large voting for governmental bodies. When coupled with a long-standing pattern of racial discrimination in the community, these and other election schemes can deny minority voters a fair chance to elect their preferred candidates.

To show vote dilution in these situations, there must be a geographically concentrated minority population and voting that is polarized by race, that is, a pattern in which minority voters and white voters tend to vote differently as groups. It must also be shown that white voters, by voting as a bloc against minority-choice candidates, usually beat those candidates even if minority voters are unified or cohesive at the polls.

Anyone aggrieved by minority vote dilution can bring a federal lawsuit to stop it. If the court decides that the effect of an election system, in combination with all the local circumstances, is to make minority votes less effective than white votes, it can order a change in the election system. For example, courts have ordered states and localities to adopt districting plans to replace at-large voting, or to redraw their election district lines in a way that gives minority voters the same opportunity as other voters to elect representatives of their choice.

I have to confess, while I have been reading and interpreting statutes for almost 20 years now, I still did not interpret this the way that it has been applied in Port Chester, and I decided to dig a little deeper.  I found the Justice Department’s Complaint, and read it.  It made for some interesting reading, considering some of the allegations it made.  Out of curiosity, I would like to see what proof the government had to back those allegations.  Afterall, the claim that the hispanic voters almost always vote cohesively for the candidate they prefer, but that the white majority usually votes sufficiently as a bloc to defeat the Hispanic preferred candidate is an allegation begging for proof, especially when the citizen voting age population of the village is 21.9 % hispanic and 65.5% non-hispanic white.  With a discrepancy like that, the majority white voters don’t have to “vote against” any candidate, hispanic or otherwise.  (The population demographic that apparently matters to the DOJ is that when you look at the voting age population without that pesky “citizen” designation, the hispanic percentage constitutes 43.3% of the population as opposed to the 46.3% of the white non-hispanic percentage of the village population…21.4% is a lot of people who are not citizens, and yet seem to be due some right to elect a representative of their preference.)

I also read through FairVote’s amicus brief, in which it suggested the cumulative voting resolution, claiming that division into districts was not a practical solution in this case.  I did not find the Village’s answer to the complaint.

However, when I read more about the facts, I became even more troubled.  The AP story on this made some intriguing representations:

Under the outlawed system, two of Port Chester’s six trustee seats were up each election year and the entire village chose from the candidates. Most voters were white, and white candidates always won.

Not really a mystery.  If the number of non-hispanic whites who were of voting age and were citizens was more than double than that of their hispanic counterparts, this should not be shocking.  Nor is it shocking in an at-large voting system where two of the six positions were up for election in any election. 

The Justice Department’s plan would have divided the village into six districts, with each electing one trustee. One district would be drawn to include Hispanic neighborhoods, increasing the chances that a Hispanic-backed candidate would be elected.

Port Chester officials, however, noted that because many Hispanics are not citizens, the special Hispanic district would have fewer eligible voters than other districts. That would violate the one-person, one-vote requirement of the Constitution, village attorneys said.

Think about this for a minute.  The root irritant here is that there is an assumption on the part of the federal government that because nearly half of the village’s residents are hispanic, that they would necessarily prefer being represented by hispanics on the village board of trustees, and that such an assumption is worthy of government interference to achieve.  I know that I find this notion repugnant, as a deliberate preservation of a racist intent by the government that can somehow be justified as a worthy goal because of the minority status of this population.  And a prior AP story noted that the elections in Port Chester were not a new development.

Mayor Gerald Logan blasted the lawsuit, calling it “unfortunate and heavy-handed” and noting that Port Chester has used at-large elections since 1868.

Somehow I doubt that this form of election was adopted in 1868 so that the racist white people could keep the latino hoards in their place.  But that doesn’t matter.  The fact that no latino had ever been elected, despite the apparent fact that no eligible voter had ever been prevented from voting for the candidate of their choice, was enough to make the election system racist and subject to Federal bullying and interference.  Still, I was having trouble accepting this outcome.  Then I got out my trusty Corwin and Peltason (twelfth ed.), and read this happy bit:

The Voting Rights Act, especially as amended in in 1982, goes beyond the Fifteenth Amendment in another very important way.  Electoral arrangements that do not relate directly to voting and are neutral on their face are not violations of the Fifteenth Amendment, even if they dilute the voting power of blacks, unless they are motivated by a discriminatory “purpose”.  What does not violate the Fifteenth Amendment, however, may violate the Voting Rights Act.  A Supreme Court plurality opinion in Mobile v Borden had declared that, to establish a violation of either the Voting Rights Act of the Fourteenth Amendment, minority voters had to prove that a contested electoral mechanism was intentionally adopted or maintained by state officials for a discriminatory purpose.  The 1982 amendments set aside this limitation.

As a result, today most of the litigation involving the Voting Rights Act is not about the right to vote, but about the right not to have the votes of minorities diluted.  What precisely constitutes dilution and how it is to be determined is the subject of much litigation.  Although the 1982 amendments do not guarantee “members of a protected class a right to have members….elected in numbers equal to their proportion in the population,” they do make it illegal for governments to adopt or maintain procedures, regardless of intent, if such procedures result in the dilution of African-American (or Chicano, or Native-American, or Asian-American) voting power.

Without any apparent objective test for dilution or a bright-line rule establishing how much dilution is too much, it would appear to be in the eye of the beholder, much like the determination of obscenity.  The difference here, is that all it takes is an allegation, the fact that minorities are not elected, and the Justice Department can make the city or town subject to an expensive suit to make them change the system so that a minority can be sure to be able to elect a minority, pursuant to the assumption that someone of the same racial or ethnic group will be the preferred candidate.   Who said government sponsored segregation is dead?  And apparently, there is not much concern about the issue of citizenship being tied to representation, either.  I suppose my life would be easier if i would simply accept that citizenship vs. non-citizenship is a distinction without difference, especially when elections or receiving welfare benefits from the state or even habeas corpus for a non-citizen who has never even set foot on U.S. soil is at stake.  If I could just abandon the silly notion that citizenship means something other than I’m one of the suckers who gets to pay the bill for all the free goodies, I’m sure I’d make a jim-dandy Democrat.

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“The Court makes no attempt to disguise that it is acting to make up for Congress’  lack of “effective leadership” in dealing with the serious national problems caused by the influx of uncountable millions of illegal aliens across our borders.  The failure of enforcement of the illegal immigration laws over more than a decade and the inherent difficulty and expense of sealing our vast borders have combined to create a grave socioeconomic dilemma.  It is a dilemma that has not yet even been fully assessed, let alone addressed.  However, it is not the function of the Judiciary to provide “effective leadership” simply because the political branches of government fail to do so.”

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I confess.  It was late in the workday, and I was hot and bored.  After checking my email, I followed a link to the Washington Post, a paper I normally wouldn’t look at unless I was using it to line the bottom of a birdcage, when I saw this headline:

Neurodiversity rights activist Jonathan Mooney: “You’re not broken”

I knew it was simply a baited hook, but I bit down anyway.

And like a sharp object poked through my lip, I found it irritating.

You wouldn’t know to look at him that Jonathan Mooney is a man with a disability. He is young, handsome, and speaks with an easy style and a confidence that doesn’t reflect early, dire warnings of jail or a life flipping burgers that his early teachers predicted for him. To look at him, you wouldn’t know that he is an energetic advocate for what he calls “a defining rights movement for the 21st century,” the neurodiversity rights movement.

You can read the rest of the article for yourself, but the gist is rather than concentrating on helping kids with autism connect with and conform to the world in which they live, we need to find ways and places where they can continue to be who and what they are without such expectations.  Hence the idea of a “neurodiversity rights movement”.  And hence my irritation.

Now before the more sensitive among you take it upon yourselves to swaddle up in the mantle of self-righteous outrage at how I am about to proceed, be warned:  I have two boys who are autistic.

These young men have been a real blessing in my life, and have helped me to nurture an incomplete sympathy into a more developed sense of empathy than I would have likely ever developed if left to my own devices.  And when I say “autistic”, I am using the generic term which is what I am told is the new proper term.  If we go to older diagnoses, which I tend to consider more precise, they each have Asperger’s Syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum, but is usually a type of high functioning autism which can manifest itself in some interesting behavioral quirks, but doesn’t necessarily make the afflicted person stand apart the way a child with other, more extreme forms of autism can.  In my oldest son, the symptoms have been a propensity toward sensory overload, which used to lead to some alarming meltdowns, an unusual focus on various things, sensitivity to loud noises, very weak fine motor skills, which makes handwriting difficult, and a lack of comprehension of the various social customs that are second nature to other people, such as knowing that you face front in an elevator, or knowing about and respecting the idea of personal space. 

In my younger son, the symptoms are marked by inappropriately loud reactions, which correlate to his frustration levels, walking on his toes rather than his feet, a deep shyness around people he doesn’t know well, sensitivity to loud noises, and an expanded sense of anxiety around people, which can cause him to “flap” his hands.

While I can echo Mr. Mooney’s sentiment—they are not broken—nor are they normal. 

I want them to reach their fullest potential.  I already know that they are smart.  The oldest one’s vocabulary alone far exceeds the 5th graders he shares a classroom with, and his little brother was reading when he was three.  Their intellect doesn’t worry me.  And the help that the oldest has gotten has helped considerably with his social skills.  he hasn’t had a “meltdown” in 3 years, and you might have to talk to him for a few minutes before you might start to realize that he doesn’t really see the world quite the same way as everyone else.  And I am glad for that.

Humans are the only creatures on the planet who figure that other like creatures owe them a certain deference because of their condition, and we in this country take that one step further by passing laws that purport to confer “rights” in order to make people conform to these expectations.  This is, of course, silly.  If you have to rely on the activity of government in order to confer a right, than it isn’t a “right” at all, it is merely a mandate for deference, and mandates can be changed on a whim.

I want my children to grow up to be happy and fulfilled.  Every parent who cares wants that for their kid.  However, I don’t think that learning to meet society’s minimum expectations hampers that ability.  I know my kids are capable of doing that.  I watch as it happens more and more as they grow older.  It hasn’t changed who they are.   It hasn’t destroyed their way of looking at the world, but they have gotten more adept at dealing with it. 

I realize that this isn’t an option for every kid with autism.  I realize that for some, no amount of training will enable them to interact in a regular and normal way with the world around them, and those who love them.  For them, others may always be their conduit to the outside world.  I remain unconvinced that special rights are the answer for supplying those people with the respect that they deserve as human beings, or that such a grant really is to the benefit of society. 

It comes down to a very simple truth.  The touch of God is present in everything and in everyone who surrounds us.  If we are created in his image, then we owe that respect to each other.  It it sometimes difficult to maintain, as some people sully or misuse the gifts they have been given, but it is this recognition which is sometimes lacking for which a mandate creates a very poor substitute.  Anyone who spends time with an autistic child understands that whatever the behaviors might be, there is still a dignity there, and that dignity sometimes drives them to achievements that teachers and parents don’t think are possible. 

I want my boys to be who they are.  I want the world to know that their hearts are so much better than my own.  And I want them to be able to make their own way.  That doesn’t happen in a world that has to accommodate them, and they would never know if their achievements would be the same without the deference. 

You keep your “rights”.  I’ll keep them learning, working, and growing in their understanding and ability to deal with the world around them.

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…in fact, he’s counting on it.

That can be the only explanation for a speech that didn’t fail to disappoint this evening.  Maybe his regular teleprompter was on vacation. Or maybe yet more talk about action simply fails to satisfy.  Or maybe linguistic slight of hand isn’t convincing on this subject when his advisors forget to tell him to take off his golf glove.  It’s so hard to say.

“Good evening. As we speak, our nation faces a multitude of challenges. At home, our top priority is to recover and rebuild from a recession that has touched the lives of nearly every American. Abroad, our brave men and women in uniform are taking the fight to al-Qaida wherever it exists.”

 Of course the recession is nothing compared to the economic effect of insane borrowing to create more government jobs, and the incalculable damage that will be wrought by the burdens of Health Care “Reform”, and Cap and Tax.  And I haven’t figured out why its ok for you to play golf while those brave men and women fight, and even come home in boxes, but not when your predecessor did it.  Why is that, Mr. President?

“And tonight, I’ve returned from a trip to the Gulf Coast to speak with you about the battle we’re waging against an oil spill that is assaulting our shores and our citizens.”

You can try to ascribe a motive to it, but it remains a natural phenomenon.

“On April 20th, an explosion ripped through BP Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, about 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana. Eleven workers lost their lives. Seventeen others were injured. And soon, nearly a mile beneath the surface of the ocean, oil began spewing into the water.

Because there’s never been a leak this size at this depth, stopping it has tested the limits of human technology. That’s why, just after the rig sank, I assembled a team of our nation’s best scientists and engineers to tackle this challenge, a team led by Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and our nation’s secretary of energy. Scientists at our national labs and experts from academia and other oil companies have also provided ideas and advice.”

A plug for the expertocracy.  Lovely.  Are we naming names so they can be tossed under the bus later, or am I supposed to be reassured that a physicist turned politician is trying to determine how to stop a leaking oil well a mile beneath the sea?

As a result of these efforts, we’ve directed BP to mobilize additional equipment and technology. And in the coming weeks and days, these efforts should capture up to 90 percent of the oil leaking out of the well. This is until the company finishes drilling a relief well later in the summer that’s expected to stop the leak completely.

Which I’m sure BP resisted right up until The Government™ stepped in and told it to do something that might help mitigate a public relations nightmare for them.  Of course, this does nothing to explain why you turned down offers of help from other governments who made sincere offers to mobilize their own specialized resources designed to do just that days and weeks ago.  And why is BP drilling a relief well, anyway?  Is there something that you have likely been told that would make your tough talk seem all the more foolish and staged?

“Already, this oil spill is the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced. And unlike an earthquake or a hurricane, it’s not a single event that does its damage in a matter of minutes or days. The millions of gallons of oil that have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico are more like an epidemic, one that we will be fighting for months and even years.”

Made much worse than it had to be, not just by Federal inaction, which was considerable, but also by a failure to approve state mitigation and prevention efforts in a timely fashion.  Never has “We’re from the government, and we’re here to help” sounded so much like a cruel joke.

But make no mistake: We will fight this spill with everything we’ve got for as long it takes. We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused. And we will do whatever’s necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy.

Make no mistake.  I knew this speech would be good for at least one “make no mistake”, your now infamous preface to saying something insincere or condescending.  As for making BP, there is that whole dealio with, um, you know…the law, which already makes BP’s obligations in this matter perfectly clear, with or without general tough talk from you.  And as for the rest, why start now?  Over 60 days, Mr. President.  That’s a lot of golf and fund raising.

“Tonight, I’d like to lay out for you what our battle plan is going forward: what we’re doing to clean up the oil, what we’re doing to help our neighbors in the gulf, and what we’re doing to make sure that a catastrophe like this never happens again.”

If you’re doing what you can, then we should resign ourselves to black beaches and dead marine life for the foreseeable future.  And preventing any further offshore drilling isn’t an answer either.

“First, the clean-up.

From the very beginning of this crisis, the federal government has been in charge of the largest environmental clean-up effort in our nation’s history, an effort led by Admiral Thad Allen, who has almost 40 years of experience responding to disasters. We now have nearly 30,000 personnel who are working across four states to contain and clean up the oil. Thousands of ships and other vessels are responding in the gulf. And I’ve authorized the deployment of over 17,000 National Guard members along the coast. These servicemen and women are ready to help stop the oil from coming ashore, they’re ready to help clean the beaches, train response workers, or even help with processing claims, and I urge the governors in the affected states to activate these troops as soon as possible.

Because of our efforts, millions of gallons of oil have already been removed from the water through burning, skimming, and other collection methods. Over 5.5 million feet of boom has been laid across the water to block and absorb the approaching oil. We’ve approved the construction of new barrier islands in Louisiana to try to stop the oil before it reaches the shore, and we’re working with Alabama, Mississippi and Florida to implement creative approaches to their unique coastlines.”

Why did the approvals take so long?  The EPA is an executive agency.  You could have cut a lot of red tape with one of those executive orders you’re so fond of.

“As the clean-up continues, we will offer whatever additional resources and assistance our coastal states may need.

Now, a mobilization of this speed and magnitude will never be perfect, and new challenges will always arise. I saw and heard evidence of that during this trip. So if something isn’t working, we want to hear about it. If there are problems in the operation, we will fix them.

But we have to recognize that, despite our best efforts, oil has already caused damage to our coastline and its wildlife. And sadly, no matter how effective our response is, there will be more oil and more damage before this siege is done.”

You didn’t really think that looking over BP’s shoulder and screaming “plug the hole” while the stain grew unabated was really going to prevent damage to the coastline, did you?

“That’s why the second thing we’re focused on is the recovery and restoration of the Gulf Coast.

You know, for generations, men and women who call this region home have made their living from the water. That living is now in jeopardy. I’ve talked to shrimpers and fishermen who don’t know how they’re going to support their families this year. I’ve seen empty docks and restaurants with fewer customers, even in areas where the beaches are not yet affected.”

At least you didn’t whine about doing it in the rain this time.  I guess the focus group analysis that said “pussy” stung a bit.

“I’ve talked to owners of shops and hotels who wonder when the tourists might start coming back. The sadness and the anger they feel is not just about the money they’ve lost; it’s about a wrenching anxiety that their way of life may be lost.”

No thanks to you and your merry band of incompetents.

“I refuse to let that happen. Tomorrow, I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company’s recklessness.”

I don’t recall any details that support the claim of recklessness.

“And this fund will not be controlled by BP. In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent third party.”

Law, meet non-practicing lawyer.  Non-practicing lawyer, meet law.  I know, you read about these kinds of things in law school, and therefore must think them to be quite extraordinary, but it really isn’t a new concept, Mr. President.

“Beyond compensating the people of the gulf in the short term, it’s also clear we need a long-term plan to restore the unique beauty and bounty of this region. The oil spill represents just the latest blow to a place that’s already suffered multiple economic disasters and decades of environmental degradation that has led to disappearing wetlands and habitats.

And the region still hasn’t recovered from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. That’s why we must make a commitment to the Gulf Coast that goes beyond responding to the crisis of the moment.”

Aaaaannnnddd the implied dig at your predecessor.  Brilliant. 

“I make that commitment tonight.

Earlier, I asked Ray Mabus, the secretary of the Navy, who’s also a former governor of Mississippi and a son of the Gulf Coast, to develop a long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan as soon as possible. The plan will be designed by states, local communities, tribes, fishermen, businesses, conservationists, and other gulf residents. And BP will pay for the impact this spill has had on the region.”

Which is what the law requires.

“The third part of our response plan is the steps we’re taking to ensure that a disaster like this does not happen again.

A few months ago, I approved a proposal to consider new, limited offshore drilling under the assurance that it would be absolutely safe, that the proper technology would be in place and the necessary precautions would be taken.

That obviously was not the case in the Deepwater Horizon rig, and I want to know why. The American people deserve to know why. The families I met with last week who lost their loved ones in the explosion, these families deserve to know why.”

Nothing is absolutely safe, Mr. President, and only fool believes otherwise.  As for what was and was not the case, I suggest that you consider the declaration without facts you made after the arrest of your buddy Skip Gates.  Your certainty in the lack of facts there left you with egg on your face, and since the Deepwater Horizon had only recently received a government award for its operations, it sounds a lot like you throwing a bunch of dead oil workers under your famous death bus.

“And so I’ve established a national commission to understand the causes of this disaster and offer recommendations on what additional safety and environmental standards we need to put in place. Already I’ve issued a six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling.”

Because gasoline isn’t expensive enough.  We know.  We heard you the first time.

“I know this creates difficulty for the people who work on these rigs, but for the sake of their safety and for the sake of the entire region, we need to know the facts before we allow deep-water drilling to continue.”

Because there is no disaster, no harm that can’t be made worse by government determined to pass inane tax bills masquerading as energy bills, and who would gleefully use an accident to make that a reality.

“And while I urge the commission to complete its work as quickly as possible, I expect them to do that work thoroughly and impartially.”

Because if the hatchetjob is too quick, people might ask questions.

“Now, one place we’ve already begun to take action is at the agency in charge of regulating drilling and issuing permits, known as the Minerals Management Service.

Over the last decade, this agency has become emblematic of a failed philosophy that views all regulation with hostility, a philosophy that says corporations should be allowed to play by their own rules and police themselves.”

After all, there is no aspect of life that cannot be made more costly and burdensome with regulation.

“At this agency, industry insiders were put in charge of industry oversight. Oil companies showered regulators with gifts and favors and were essentially allowed to conduct their own safety inspections and write their own regulations.”

Probably because prize-winning physicists know so much more about about the oil business, and can therefore craft regulations that achieve their stated goal while imposing the lease onerous burdens and costs on an industry that affects every aspect of daily life.

“And when Ken Salazar became my secretary of the interior, one of his very first acts was to clean up the worst of the corruption at this agency. But it’s now clear that the problem there ran much deeper and the pace of reform was just too slow.

And so Secretary Salazar and I are bringing in new leadership at the agency: Michael Bromwich, who was a tough federal prosecutor and inspector general. And his charge over the next few months is to build an organization that acts as the oil industry’s watchdog, not its partner.”

Yay!!!!  Another Harvard Lawyer!!!  Whatever did we do without Harvard Lawyers to tell us how we’ve been doing it wrong?

“So one of the lessons we’ve learned from this spill is that we need better regulations, better safety standards, and better enforcement when it comes to offshore drilling. But a larger lesson is that, no matter how much we improve our regulation of the industry, drilling for oil these days entails greater risk.”

More than it should, actually.  but that’s what happens when The Government™ won’t let us drill closer to shore, or in much of our on land oil reserves.

“After all, oil is a finite resource. We consume more than 20 percent of the world’s oil, but have less than 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves. And that’s part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean: because we’re running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water.”

No, we aren’t, as the USGS and MMS data show.  Seeing as they are part of your “team”, you really shouldn’t be saying things that are so easily proved wrong.

“For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we’ve talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires.”

And for decades, or technology has improved, allowing us to access more and more previously unrecoverable oil.

“Time and again, the path forward has been blocked, not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.”

The only path that is being blocked is the path that says The Government™ gets to spend millions in taxpayer dollars developing “green” technologies of its choosing, once again deciding who will win and who will lose in an industry, and using the power of the public purse to make it so.  What is astonishing is that you really don’t expect us to see this for the incredible opportunity for graft and corruption that it is.

“The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight. Countries like China are investing in clean-energy jobs and industries that should be right here in America. Each day, we send nearly $1 billion of our wealth to foreign countries for their oil. And today, as we look to the gulf, we see an entire way of life being threatened by a menacing cloud of black crude.”

Of course, the Chinese are also buying hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil, and the fact that they are clearly jockeying for blue water supremacy in the Pacific shouldn’t be cause for concern.  I’m sure our military aircraft will be powered by solar panels in the future.

“We cannot consign our children to this future. The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean-energy future is now. Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash America’s innovation and seize control of our own destiny.”

I agree.  Inexpensive, domestically controlled and produced energy will be vital to our future.  And we have those resources, but have been prevented for decades by conservationists and environmental wackjobs from making use of the incredible bounty that we sit atop.

“This is not some distant vision for America. The transition away from fossil fuels is going to take some time. But over the last year- and-a-half, we’ve already taken unprecedented action to jump-start the clean-energy industry.”

The transition from fossil fuels will take as long as it takes us to get to $7 a gallon gasoline.  Then the blackouts and prohibitive energy costs, and higher food prices can combine to winnow away the most vulnerable of us.  I’ll miss Granny, and the poor folks down the street, but the savings to Medicare and Medicaid should be tremendous!

And there’s the “unprecedented”.  I dare you to step in front of a microphone and NOT use this word when you are applying it to yourself or your administration, Mr. President.  If you could do that even just once, that would be unprecedented.

“As we speak, old factories are reopening to produce wind turbines, people are going back to work installing energy-efficient windows, and small businesses are making solar panels. Consumers are buying more efficient cars and trucks, and families are making their homes more energy-efficient. Scientists and researchers are discovering clean-energy technologies that someday will lead to entire new industries.

Each of us has a part to play in a new future that will benefit all of us. As we recover from this recession, the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of jobs, but only if we accelerate that transition, only if we seize the moment, and only if we rally together and act as one nation: workers and entrepreneurs, scientists and citizens, the public and private sectors.”

The public sector makes a dandy leech.  Not such a good innovator or wealth creator.

“You know, when I was a candidate for this office, I laid out a set of principles that would move our country towards energy independence. Last year, the House of Representatives acted on these principles by passing a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill, a bill that finally makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America’s businesses.”

Demonstrating once again that there is a difficult gulf between the government declaring something, and it actually being reality.

“Now, there are costs associated with this transition, and there are some who believe that we can’t afford those costs right now. I say we can’t afford not to change how we produce and use energy, because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater.”

Because making the most of our resources at the same time, rather than clinging to silly notions that solar panels alone will save us is just crazy.

“So I’m happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party, as long as they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels. Some have suggested raising efficiency standards in our buildings, like we did in our cars and trucks. Some believe we should set standards to ensure that more of our electricity comes from wind and solar power. Others wonder why the energy industry only spends a fraction of what the high-tech industry does on research and development, and want to rapidly boost our investments in such research and development.”

How dare we be “addicted” to our cars, air travel, shipping goods and food to stores where we can buy them, rather than having to grow them ourselves, and having heat and air conditioning.  How silly of us.

“All of these approaches have merit and deserve a fair hearing in the months ahead. But the one approach I will not accept is inaction. The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is somehow too big and too difficult to meet.”

Yes, because fair hearings are important.  Unless I don’t want to hear it.  I won, you know.

And inaction is not acceptable.  I couldn’t stay in the Oval Office and do my job.  I heard about the spill, and I decided that inaction wouldn’t be good.  You’d be surprised how much better I felt after sinking some tough putts.

“You know, the same thing was said about our ability to produce enough planes and tanks in World War II. The same thing was said about our ability to harness the science and technology to land a man safely on the surface of the moon.”

No, it wasn’t.  Instead, they rolled up the sleeves, sharpened their pencils, got their slide rules clicking, and brought the P-51 Mustang from the drawing board to flight in less than a year.  We cranked out Liberty Ships and yards of ammunition, and we did it without bitching, whining, blaming other people, or doubting ourselves.  It wasn’t easy, but it was never impossible.  But it also wasn’t done by saying “Screw Petroleum.  I want a ray gun.” either.  But thanks for reminding us of the American Exceptionalism that you have been so eager to talk down at every opportunity.

“And yet, time and again, we have refused to settle for the paltry limits of conventional wisdom.”

Just conventional politicians. Like taxes and stupidity, they too, will always be with us.

“Instead, what has defined us as a nation since our founding is the capacity to shape our destiny, our determination to fight for the America we want for our children. Even if we’re unsure exactly what that looks like, even if we don’t yet precisely know how we’re going to get there, we know we’ll get there.”

I don’t want the same future you want for my children.  I don’t want them to settle for second best, a fading star in a world that hates and despises us.

“It’s a faith in the future that sustains us as a people. It is that same faith that sustains our neighbors in the gulf right now.

Each year, at the beginning of shrimping season, the region’s fishermen take part in a tradition that was brought to America long ago by fishing immigrants from Europe. It’s called “The Blessing of the Fleet,” and today it’s a celebration where clergy from different religions gather to say a prayer for the safety and success of the men and women who will soon head out to sea, some for weeks at a time.

The ceremony goes on in good times and in bad. It took place after Katrina, and it took place a few weeks ago, at the beginning of the most difficult season these fishermen have ever faced.

And still, they came and they prayed.

For as a priest and former fisherman once said of the tradition, “The blessing is not that God has promised to remove all obstacles and dangers. The blessing is that He is with us always,” a blessing that’s granted “even in the midst of the storm.””

Of course, hearing from the President who still hasn’t chosen a church more than a year into his presidency, but considered God a partner in the effort to ram through health care reform brings a grin to my face.

“The oil spill is not the last crisis America will face. This nation has known hard times before, and we will surely know them again. What sees us through — what has always seen us through — is our strength, our resilience, and our unyielding faith that something better awaits us if we summon the courage to reach for it.”

No, the biggest crisis we face is your continuing presidency.  But it is evidence that prayers are answered.  Jimmy Carter can sleep better knowing that he is no longer the worst President in recent memory.

“Tonight, we pray for that courage, we pray for the people of the gulf, and we pray that a hand may guide us through the storm towards a brighter day.”

I pray that someone in your administration can actually step up, and start doing what you should have been doing all along.

“Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.”

If only I could believe that you meant it.

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One Man, One Vote.

The bedrock of our republic?  Notsomuch.

Arthur Furano voted early — five days before Election Day. And he voted often, flipping the lever six times for his favorite candidate.

Furano cast multiple votes on the instructions of a federal judge and the U.S. Department of Justice as part of a new election system crafted to help boost Hispanic representation.

Voters in Port Chester, 25 miles northeast of New York City, are electing village trustees for the first time since the federal government alleged in 2006 that the existing election system was unfair. The election ends Tuesday and results are expected late Tuesday.

Although the village of about 30,000 residents is nearly half Hispanic, no Latino had ever been elected to any of the six trustee seats, which until now were chosen in a conventional at-large election. Most voters were white, and white candidates always won. [emphasis mine].

Federal Judge Stephen Robinson said that violated the Voting Rights Act, and he approved a remedy suggested by village officials: a system called cumulative voting, in which residents get six votes each to apportion as they wish among the candidates. He rejected a government proposal to break the village into six districts, including one that took in heavily Hispanic areas.

Brilliant!  Now when people don’t bother to show up to vote, we’ll still make sure that “they” have representation, because the government they couldn’t bother to elect still must look like them. 

When do we change the motto to reflect truth in advertising?

How will it be sold to us?

“From One, Many.”  Bringing Balkanization to our shores.

H/t to DPUD.

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I freely admit it.  I don’t know this candidate.  I don’t know the state or the district that he is running in.   I don’t know his religion, how he is at home, or what he does for a living.  But as outside counsel to several small businesses, I can appreciate the sentiment.

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"And IF I had done something to prevent it, some people might have said bad things about me, so the whole mess is really the Republicans' and Tea Partiers' fault!"

It sure is tough to be a leader when you obviously have no clue how to lead, at least that seems to be the case for the current occupant of the Oval Office.  Despite claiming that the federal government was on the Deepwater Horizon leak “FROM DAY ONE” [repeat ad nauseum, interspersed with carefully practiced looks of concern, morphing over a progression of days to looks of increasing irritation and peevishness as the crisis magnified by little in the way of federal cleanup efforts became harder and harder to pin on the recklessness and greed of BIG OIL alone], there is little doubt that the plans that the feds were required to have pursuant to the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP) were not being acted upon, unless the plan was to have a lot of federal officials looking over the polluter’s shoulders, wringing their hands, and holding pressers where they appear before the cameras and indignantly claim that they were on the scene FROM DAY ONE! whenever any one got close to asking why the stain in the Gulf was growing,  but no one was gathering the oil up.

And now, squirming in the hot seat, and fresh off an exceedingly silly statement about trying to determine who’s ass to kick, the President has happened on a brilliant deflection strategy:  It is the Republican’s fault!  And those damn tea partiers are hypocrites, too!

From the Politico:

“I think it’s fair to say, if six months ago, before this spill had happened, I had gone up to Congress and I had said we need to crack down a lot harder on oil companies and we need to spend more money on technology to respond in case of a catastrophic spill, there are folks up there, who will not be named, who would have said this is classic, big-government overregulation and wasteful spending.”

I know, he didn’t actually name the Republicans, but it doesn’t really matter, as the Democrats only denounce defense spending as classic, big-government overregulation and wasteful spending.  I have to admit, it is a unique strategy.  “If I had done something to prevent this (putting aside the nasty fact that government doesn’t know how to fix it, so my faith in their prevention of it in an ongoing operation is next to nothing), then those nasty old Republicans would have shut me down.”  This is why having a President who is a parent to young children is so entertaining.  Those of us with children of our own recognize the excuse, and wonder about the role reversal.  Maybe he needs a few more minutes of daily nappy time.  Perhaps Rahmbo should get on that.

The childishness of this thinking is exceeded only by ludicrousness of the concept that a GOP that lacked the numbers to prevent Spendulous and ObamaReidPelosiCare could somehow do more than scold the President IF he had done something to prevent the growing ecological mess.  This argument simply underscores both the President’s inability to lead on the things that are rather than the things he wants to be, and the contempt he has for the average American when he says such things and expects to be taken seriously.

He wasn’t done with this contempt, however.  The small man in the really big chair had another bit of Chicago Leadership to share in the interview:

“Some of the same folks who have been hollering and saying ‘do something’ are the same folks who, just two or three months ago, were suggesting that government needs to stop doing so much,” Obama said. “Some of the same people who are saying the president needs to show leadership and solve this problem are some of the same folks who, just a few months ago, were saying this guy is trying to engineer a takeover of our society through the federal government that is going to restrict our freedoms.”
Again, this of course sells short the ability of the public to understand that the leases are on federal land, and that there is already a body of federal law regarding clean up of these type of these accidents.  Regulation of drilling is different from claiming GM and Chrysler are too big to fail, buying them without money while screwing secured creditors, and then giving them to the unions, or deciding that a group of people in Washington D.C. are better able to determine and administer the health care needs of Farmer Jones and his family in the apple groves of eastern Washington State.
 
I have been a parent for ten years now, and while my kids didn’t ask for the job of being my children, I wouldn’t accept an “It isn’t my fault because if I had done something to prevent it, you might have said unkind things about me.”  What in the name of great honkin’ Chuthuilu makes the President, a man who eagerly sought the responsibility to lead, think I would accept it from him?
 
Grow up, Mr. President.  SanFranNan’s declaration to the contrary, we’re in the second year of your enlightened adminstration.  Blaming other people for federal inaction while you are at fundraisers and on the links isn’t going to wash anymore.  You own this.  You asked for the responsibility; the criticism is the flip side of that shiny, shiny coin. 
 
This is why after a year of this:
Fewer and fewer of us have any respect, let alone trust, for him.
 

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